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How Mosquitoes Helped Win the Battle of Yorktown

Every summer Americans spend millions of dollars to destroy, or at least repel, the pesky mosquito. As a people, we hate mosquitoes.  But we might be a little less hostile toward these creatures if we realized the role mosquitoes played in winning the American Revolution.

Anopheles quadrimaculatus, the mosquito that helped with the Battle of Yorktown and the American Revolution.

Anopheles quadrimaculatus, the mosquito that helped with the Battle of Yorktown and the American Revolution.

Certainly the leadership of Gen. George Washington and the fortitude and bravery of the men of the Continental Army rightfully deserve most of the credit in earning the victory over the British. But historians also recognize the key role played by the mighty Anopheles quadrimaculatus mosquitoes, the malaria bearing mosquitoes that flourished in the coastal regions of the American South. Here’s what happened. In 1779 the British invaded the American South (the “Southern Strategy”) in the hopes of winning a few battles that would then trigger a Loyalist uprising. With the South under British control the redcoats would then move to defeat the rebellion in the remaining colonies. At least that was the plan. The British and German soldiers serving under Gen. Cornwallis had almost no previous exposure to malaria when they arrived in the Tidewater region near Yorktown in June 1781. By late summer as many as half his soldiers were incapacitated by malaria. Fortunately for the American and French soldiers who opposed Cornwallis, they had arrived in the Tidewater region in September. So while mosquitoes soon infected many of them with malaria, smaller numbers were taken ill because the disease takes up to a month to manifest symptoms.  And it was in those weeks that the Continental Army managed to trap and lay siege to Cornwallis and what he termed his “force daily diminished by sickness.” On October 19, 1781, seemingly out of options and with no relief in sight, Cornwallis surrendered.
So credit the men of the Continental Army, but don’t forget the mosquitoes!
Read more here http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/18/AR2010101803877.html